Evolve: Final Four - Games Weekly

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Evolve: Final Four

The gaming community let out a collective groan last summer when Turtle Rock announced it was delaying its monster-infused, asymmetrical multiplayer game until February. However, the cloudy skies above planet Shear contain a few silver linings that should hopefully make the wait more bearable. Hot off the heels of a well-received public alpha event, Turtle Rock gave us a full rundown of Evolve’s final tier of hunt-ers, along with detailed explanations of all of the game’s previously unan-nounced modes. Here’s what you can expect.
After a year of secrecy, Turtle Rock has finally revealed all the modes Evolve offers players. Shying away from typical multiplayer conventions, each mode provides a unique twist on the game’s four-versus-one format. All these modes can be played with any combination of players, whether it’s solo or a full group of five.

Hunt Mode
The only mode we’ve seen up until now, Hunt mode serves as the foun dation of Evolve’s four-versus-one gameplay. The rules are simple: The hunters must track down and slay the player monster to win. The mon ster triumphs if it can kill off all four hunters before reinforcements arrive, or evolve to stage three and complete an alter native, map-specific objective.

Nest Mode
Eschewing the prolonged tracking phase of Hunt mode, Nest mode focuses the attention of the competing teams on specific points on the map: five procedurally placed monster eggs. As the hunters, it’s your job to find the eggs and destroy them (you can also win by killing off the player monster). As the monster, you must defend the helpless eggs and eradicate the hunter squad. In an interesting twist, the monster can sacrifice an egg by hatching it, which spawns a stage-one, A.I.- controlled Goliath to fight by its side.

Rescue Mode
The final main mode puts the hunters on defense. Three groups of civilians are procedurally placed throughout the map. The hunters are tasked to find and revive these survivors and then escort them to a nearby evacuation point. Conversely, the monster must kill off as many civilians as possible the winner is decided by whether the majority of civilians live or die. Civilians will actively call out and shoot off flares to attract the searching hunters, while a monster lurking nearby will cause them to fall silent. Turtle Rock says that each subsequent group contains more civilians than the last, so neither team is completely out of it until the final group is rescued (or preyed upon). As with the other two modes, the match can be won if the monster kills off all the hunters or vice versa.

While players are free to play single rounds of the three aforementioned modes, Turtle Rock has crafted a longer, more in-depth experience as well, similar to Left 4 Dead’s campaigns. Evacuation mode is a five round campaign that encapsulates the hunters’ attempts to save planet Shear’s colonists from the invading monsters. The first round is always Hunt mode, and is played on a randomly selected map.

Unlike most multiplayer games, each of Evolve’s 12 levels is a fully realized location, pieced together on planet Shear’s overworld map like states on a map of America. After the first round is complete, the winning team gets to choose the next map from two randomly selected  neighboring  locations.

Additionally, each map-specific objective endows the winning team with a unique bonus in the following round (regardless if the objective was completed). For example, if the hunters win on the Fusion Plant level, the next map they choose will feature automated sentry turrets, powered by the generator they successfully defended. If the monster wins, how ever, the destruction of the generator causes poisonous radiation clouds to appear on the next map, which harm the hunters and local wildlife.

Another example of a map-specific objective involves a caged Goliath guarded by a stranded transport ship. If the monster wins, the Goliath is freed and fights beside the player on the next map as an A.I. controlled minion. If the hunters win, the saved captain patrols the skies from overhead, automatically tagging the monster whenever he spots it. Other bonuses include a med base that provides additional healing to wounded hunters, or teleport gates that make getting around the map a breeze. Because each bonus can be applied to any of the maps surrounding it, Turtle Rock says there are over 800,000 possible permutations for how a campaign can play out.

Rounds two, three, and four follow a similar pattern, with the winning team picking between two of the adja-cent maps, and the two modes that weren’t just played. For the fifth and final round, Turtle Rock changes up the formula again.

The two teams are pitted against each other in Defend mode, played out on one of four unique maps. The mission: The hunters must defend all of the civilians saved in the previous four rounds as they board the last transport ship off planet Shear. The monster’s job is to break through a series of defensive perimeters and destroy the transport’s fuel pump, causing a chain reaction that will explode the entire ship, killing every one. The hunters must protect the ship at all costs. It’s an all or nothing showdown that rewards the winning team with additional XP for every civilian saved (or killed).

Players may bristle at the thought of a campaign that’s composed mostly of multiplayer matches, but like Turtle Rock’s Left 4 Dead, the story isn’t really the point. The developer’s interest and strong suit is creating highly replayable multiplayer experiences; with an overwhelming amount of builtin variety and a structure dictated by player choice, Evacuation mode aims to deliver just that.

The last tier of human characters require the most experience and skill to be effective on the battlefield. While they may have higher learning curves, mastering their team-oriented abilities will make your squad a force to be reckoned with.

Name: Abe
Class:  Trapper

Abe is the weapons expert of the hunters, and like Han Solo, he always has a smart alecky quip for his fellow companions. Turtle Rock says Abe and Parnell are BFFs, so you can expect plenty of joking and arguing between the two characters.

Custom Shotgun:  Unlike most video game shotguns, Abe’s primary weapon isn’t just a close-quarters weapon. The faster Abe fires the gun, the wider the pellet spread is, allowing him to take down nearby enemies with quick successive blasts, or hone in on distant enemies with slow, methodical shots.

Tracking Dart: Abe’s tracking darts highlight the monster on impact, allowing other hunters to spot the beast through obstacles for an extended duration. However, Abe can also shoot wildlife, including corpses of animals or even other hunters. If the monster eats one of them at any time during the round, it will also become highlighted.

Stasis Grenade: Less of a grenade and more of an energy-dampening orb, this throwable item binds any beast caught in its radius with electric shackles, making it slow and heavy. Stasis grenades are also sticky, allowing them to be placed on cliffs to prevent the monster from climbing to safety. They can even pull the Kraken right out of the air.

Name: Parnell
Class:  Assault

The last member of Evolve’s assault class, Parnell grew up reading comic books and dreaming of being an action hero. Planet Shear’s recent monster attacks have given him the opportunity to save the day, and his enthusiasm for battle is matched only by his firepower.

Multi-fire Rocket Launcher: This fully automatic rocket launcher can unleash a volley of five rockets in a matter of seconds. Unlike Bucket’s missile launcher, however, Parnell’s explosives don’t have any kind of built-in guidance system, so you must factor in the monster’s movements and the slow velocity of your rockets when lining up shots.

Combat Shotgun: Parnell’s second weapon is a double-barrel shotgun equipped with two high-capacity ammo drums. The combat shotgun can deal out plenty of damage, but the wide spread requires getting uncomfortably close to the target.

Super Soldier: Parnell’s final ability sets his mechanical suit into overdrive, allowing him to run faster, jump higher, and shoot and reload his weapons at a super human pace. The added speed means he can stay toe-to-toe with a fleeing monster, but the ability takes its toll, depleting Parnell’s health by 20 percent every time he uses it. Teaming up with a medic is a good idea.

Name: Cabot
Class:  Support

As the captain of the dropship players start in, Cabot recruited all of the other hunters to aid planet Shear’s civilian population. Cabot is the leader of the hunters and is the person they all look up to.

Rail Cannon:  This extremely powerful single-shot weapon can blast clear across the map. Even more impressive, the projectile will penetrate almost any object and travel an additional 40 meters, allowing Cabot to shoot the monster through canyon walls and buildings, provided he knows where the beast will be...

Dust Tagging:  Enter Cabot’s second ability. Similar to Hank’s Orbital Barrage, Dust Tagging allows Cabot to call in an airstrike from above, which blankets an area with radioactive dust. Any creature caught in the settling dust will be highlighted, making it easy for the hunters to track the monster down, or for Cabot to shoot it with his rail cannon.

Damage Amplifier: Cabot’s final ability is a support tool in its purest form. The beam device doesn’t do any damage by itself, but instead doubles the effectiveness of the other hunters’ weapons and offensive abilities. Like other support characters, choosing when to assist your fellow teammates or dish out your own damage is a major part of playing Cabot effectively.

Name: Caira
Class:  Medic

A nerdy biologist first and foremost, Caira can’t help but be fascinated by the bizarre creatures she and her fellow hunters are tasked with stopping. Players can expect Caira to share her humorous theories about the monsters while doling out health to her comrades.

Napalm Grenades: The first of two ammo types that can be dispersed from Caira’s grenade launcher, these explosive projectiles deal splash damage and burn enemies over time, requiring less precision than other weapons.

Healing Grenades: Caira’s secondary grenades allow her to provide a major health burst to herself and allies alike. The healing grenades feature the same velocity and firing arc as the napalm grenades, allowing Caira to effortlessly switch between the two during the heat of battle.

Acceleration Field: Caira’s final ability allows her to run at increased speeds for a limited amount of time. Unlike Parnell’s Super Soldier ability, Caira’s Acceleration Field also affects nearby allies, allowing her to not only catch up with her team-mates, but pull them along at superhuman speeds while chasing the monster.

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